Chains of Command by Marko Kloos

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Net Galley. In addition, I kicked in money to Marko’s Semper Fi fundraiser, and as a result, my wife’s name is in the back of the book.

Twitter Summary: Explosive, tightly written side quest that sets up next book to be a doozy.

Affiliate Links:Chains of Command (Frontlines) First book in the series Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines) , Frontline: Reqiuem (comic)

First Line: We now call it the Exodus.

I’ve been reading the Frontline series by Marko Kloos since I ran across book one in Nov of ’13, a few months after it’s publication date of 8 May 13. It’s been less than three years, and we already have four novels, and a couple short stories set in the world. A quick Tweet to the other, and I got back that there will be at least two more, though the POV character for the 6th may change. This is in addition to the comic that’s coming out in May 15. Quite a prodigious output.

One which doesn’t seem to diminish the quality of the story. His novels have been on my pre-order and devour immediately list since the first one. And while I thought that there was a minor plot hole with this one, one easily explained away by the fog of war, I believe that he has consistently improved his craft. This is the best yet.

Look at that first line! Immediately I wanna know “Who is we? What did we call it? Why that name”

I especially like how the book seems to pull a Force Awakens, and follows a lot of the story beats of the first book. We start out in boot camp, we get to a unit with Platoon Sergeant Fallon, and then we go do some urban warfighting. That is of course, a super abbreviated version of the story, but I don’t want to give anything away.

What I will give away is that the story goes like an Orion rocket. I devoured the book over the course of a couple of days, and it wouldn’t have taken that long if I hadn’t been out all day yesterday.  Marko’s POV character is relatable. He wants to do his job, spend time with his wife, and maybe occasionally blow the shit out of some aliens. Who doesn’t have a day like that?

It’s not all jingoistic, ra ra, crap either. The scenes on Earth with Grayson’s mother, and various conversation he has with friends and enemies alike, point to both the futility and the horror of war. He delves into what isa  just or unjust order, and what is a just or unjust war. This is a MilSciFi novel that understands that MilSciFi doesn’t have to be loving descriptions of viscera splattered across airlocks, or exhausting detail of the construction of a blaster pistol. You actually care about both the character, and the state of the world that he lives in.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended. Kloos continues to be one of the authors whose works I preorder in both e and deadtree, because I want them on my shelf. I very much look forward to all hell breaking loose in the fifth book.

Other Recommendations:

The works of author Jay Allan. Jay’s Crimson World series starts at a similar place, with some similar pieces, but the story that gets spun out of it is much different. Jay also writes at an incredibly prodigious pace and has self published 20+ novels in the last five years, with three tradpubbed as well. Also on my immediate purchase list. The first three Crimson World are in an omnibus for cheap. Highly recommended. Crimson Worlds Collection I: Crimson Worlds Books 1-3

His Harper Voyager series is about Mercenary Space Pirates. Also awesome. First book is  Shadow of Empire

Chains of Command by Marko Kloos

Battlemage by Stephen Aryan

Twitter summary: Pleasing conglomeration of gritty war/political intrigue/magickal battle.

Affiliate Links: Battlemage (Age of Darkness) ,Bloodmage (Age of Darkness)

First Line: Another light snow shower fell from the bleak grey sky.

One of the things I love about this book is also what I see as one of its, thankfully not fatal, flaws. We have gritty soldier on soldier battle, we have spymaster/political intrigue, we have high fantasy magickal battles, we have beings who are obviously not what they seem, and a “Who is your Daddy and what does he do?” subplot. I love all of them, however, I do think that they didn’t coalesce as well as they could have. That, and things like the first line of the book (seen above) failing to really drag one into the story, I believe to be symptoms of this being the author’s debut novel.  I have full faith that the next book will be more polished, and I’ll get to test that theory later this week as the sequel, Bloodmage, comes out on Tuesday.

I think one of the things that the author did very well was show that for as much raw killing power as the titular Battlemages have, it’s mostly used to offset the enemies Battlemages. Just as the Monitor and Merrimack mostly kept each other in check during the Civil War, and the aircraft carriers squared of in WWII, if both sides have technological parity it’s going to come down to two things: tactics, and grunts.

And that’s one part where the multi-veined story approach shines. One chapter we’ll have magickal derring-do, and the next we’ll get soldiers axing each other in the face. Then we’ll get a chapter where the spies and saboteurs get to do their thing. Scratches all the itches.

My other nitpick with the book, is that one of the antagonists has a great motivation and backstory, and the other is just a crazy guy who kills off his own people at the drop of a hat. I have a hard time believing that anyone is rushing to fight for a guy who kills off three sets of generals.

Final Verdict: I enjoyed it thoroughly, I have preordered the sequel, and I am looking forward to seeing this author grow as a storyteller.

Other Recommendations:

James A. Moore’s Seven Forges series has a lot of the same kinds of beats, starts with Seven Forges and the fourth book, The Silent Army comes out on 3 May.

Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne also has political intrigue, bad asses punching and stabbing each other in the face, plus GIANT BIRDS THAT WILL KILL YOU and the trilogy just finished up. First book is The Emperor’s Blades

Battlemage by Stephen Aryan

Things I Read in March

Author Title Previously read? m/f genre
Gwenda Bond Fallout (Lois Lane #1) no f ya superhero
Robert Jackson Bennett City of Stairs no m fantasy
Kelly Lee A Criminal Magic no f fantasy
Lyn Miller-Lachmann Rogue no f ya
Margaret Mcheyzer Ugly no f ya
K.J.Parker The Devil You Lnow no m fantasy
Jonathan Maberry Kill Switch (ARC) no m thriller
Victor Lavalle Ballad of Black Tom no m fantasy
Gwenda Bond Blackwood no f ya horror
Scott McCloud The Sculptor no m comic
Warren Ellis Elektrograd: Rusted Blood no m sf
Various Secret Wars (2015-2016) (and it’s various miniseries) no comics
Brian Bendis Invincible Iron Man (#1-6) no comics
Angela – Asgard’s Assassin (#1-6) no comics
Batman: Europa (#1-4) no comics
the Valiant (#1-4) no comics
Bloodshot Reborn (colorado and the hunt) no comics
Books of Death:the Fall of Valiant no comics
Black Canary (#1-6) no comics
Injustice: Gods Among Us (year 1) no comics
Things I Read in March

2015 Hugo Nominations Ballot

Best Novel
Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett
The Trials by Linda Nagata
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
Wake of Vultures by Delilah Dawson

Best Novella
Binti by Nneedi Okorafor
The Shootout Solution by Mike R. Underwood
The Builders by Daniel Polansky
Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss

Best Novelette
Bannerless by Carri Vaughn
Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon by Delilah Dawson
Ginga by Daniel Jose Older
ELEKTROGREAD: Rusted Blood by Warren Ellis
And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

Best Short Story
Please Undo this Hurt by Seth DIckinson
I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Ask me Anything by Laura Pearlman
Catcall by Delilah Dawson
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong
Cat Pictures, Please by Naomi Kritzer

Best Related Work
Geek Knits by Joan of Dark and Kyle Cassidy
I’m Not Broken by Annalee Flower Horne
E Pluribus Hugo
John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels by Theophilus Pratt/ALexandra Erin
Myke Cole/Sam Sykes Twitter Interactions by Myke Cole and Sam Sykes

Best Graphic Story
Sandman: OVerture by Neil Gaiman
Ms. Marvel, Vol 2 by G. Willow WIlson
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Bitch Planet, Vol 1 by Kelly Sue Deconnick
Thor, Vol 1: Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron

Best Dramatic presentation, Long Form
Welcome to Night Vale, 2015 by JOseph Fink/Jeffrey Cranor
Mad Max: FUry Road
Jessica Jones, Season 1
The Man in the High Castle by Frank Spotnitz

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Pilot – Mr. Robot
Cut Man – Daredevl s01e02
Certain Agony of the Battlefield – Orphan Black
“If-Then-Else” – Person of Interest

Best Professional Editor (Short Form)
Jaym Gates
John Joseph Adams
Ellen Datlow
Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray
Ann Vandermeer
Best Professional Editor (Long Form)
Devi Pillai
Tricia Narwani
Miriam Weinberg
Anne Sowards

Best Pro Artist
Larry Rostant
Daniel Dos Santos
Sana Takeda
John Jude Palencar
Lauren Saint-Onge

Best Semi Prozine
Uncanny Magazine
Pornokitsch
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
The Book Smugglers

Best Fanzine
James Nicoll Reviews
File770.com
Fantasy Faction UK

Best Fancast
Tea and Jeopardy
Ditch Diggers
Three Guys with Beards

Best Fan Writer

Rachel Acks
Alexandra Erin
Jared of Pornokitsch
(There were two others but I my online baguette is wonky and I can’t refresh because the deadline has passed)

Best Fan Artist
Galen Dara
Megan Lara
Euclase
Lauren Cannon

Best Hugo Award that is Not a Hugo Award
Andrea Philips
Bo Balder
Charlie Holmberg
LOST TO SANDS OF TIME
LOST TO THE OCEAN DEPTHS

2015 Hugo Nominations Ballot

Alive by Scott Sigler

Disclaimer: I received an eArc from NetGalley, as well as a physical ARC from the publisher at PHXCC.

First line: A stabbing pain jolts me awake.

I’ve been a fan of Scott Sigler’s YA work for a while. The Galactic Football League is one of my favorite series, and I eagerly collect them all as they’re dribbled out. Seeing that Scott was doing a YA series that combined SF tropes with Horror ones, I was immediately intrigued and pre-ordered immediately.

I’m glad I did. The book is an intense ride with a lot of twists and reveals. Some of them are standard fare, but they act as red herrings for other reveals, and all of them are done masterfully. Scott manages to adeptly manipulate YA tropes in a way that allows him to drag the rug out from under us down the line.

One of my main criticisms of the work, a minor one, is that it is obviously the first book in a series. You can tell that there are building blocks being laid down for something much grander down the line.

Final verdict: Thoroughly enjoyed and will be pre-ordering the second book in the series.
Other Recommendations:

SF YA series: The Insignia series by S.J. Kincaid, Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, Galactic Football League series by Scott Sigler

Alive by Scott Sigler

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Twitter Summary: Raises the stakes, and lays on the characterization. A worthy successor to ADSOM.

Amazon Affiliate Link:A Gathering of Shadows and A Darker Shade of Magic

I am Delilah Bard, she thought as the ropes cut into her skin. I am a thief and a pirate and a traveler. I have set foot in three different worlds, and lived. I have shed the blood of royals and held magic in my hands. And a ship full of men cannot do what I can. I don’t need any of you.

I am one of a damned kind.

If you had shown me that quote, I’d have read the book if I didn’t know the author or had read the first one. The last line applies just as well to the author, as well. Victoria Schwab writes likes she’s running out of time. Since her first book was published in August of ’11, she’s published nine other books.

The first I read was Vicious, and though the achronological storyline had me a little out of sorts, it lead me to preorder the first book in this series, A Darker Shade of Magic. It was a good decision.

AGoS throws together pirates, wizards, royal politics, ancient evils, and a dash of pickpocketing, into a satisfying melange of a novel that deftly plays with a myriad of fantasy tropes. This was written by someone who grew up steeped in Harry Potter and other fantastic works.

Victoria is definitely an author of the “Make you love them, and then do horrible things to them” school of story writing. You want to know what happens next, and good LORD will you want the next book immediately after you finish this one.

I love tournaments. I love wizard duels. I love pirate wizards who fight in wizard duel tournaments. I love wizard duel tournaments that involve multiple wizards pretending to be other wizards. I think that you’re going to love them, too. Brilliantly written, beautifully charactered, and amazingly plotted.

Final Verdict: Thoroughly Enjoyed and GIVE ME THE NEXT BOOK RIGHT NOW.

Other Recommendations:

Badass Female Protags: Wake of Vultures (The Shadow) by Lila Bowen, Assassin’s Curse and Pirate’s Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke (unfortunately in process of being reprinted by different publisher) , Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

WHAT I READ IN FEBRUARY

Author Title Previously Read? M/F Genre
Matt Wallace Lustlocked N M Urban Fantasy
Nick Cole Ctrl-Alt-Revolt N M SF
Nnedi Okorafor Binti N F SF
Charlie Jane Anders All the Birds in the Sky N F Urban Fantasy
Nnedi Okorafor Lagoon N F SF
Mike Underwood The Absconded Ambassador N M SF
V.E. Schwab A Gathering of Shadows N F Fantasy
Jonathan Hickman Secret Warriors vol. 2 – 6 N M Comic
Rick Remender Uncanny X-Force: Apocalypse Solution N M Comic
WHAT I READ IN FEBRUARY